With all of today’s many stressors (homework, grades, tests, social anxieties, social media, electronics, family, friends…. the list can go on), we need to start learning and developing tools to work with those stressors and not let those stressors work us! The goal isn’t to eliminate stress (which we know is not possible), but rather work with them and learn how to cool our nervous systems and brains off, so we can function better in our day to day lives. This is how the 1 Minute Challenge came about in the classroom.
Day 1 of school, the 7th grade science students were given the change to complete the 1 Minute Challenge. They were challenged (all of them as a collective whole), to close their eyes, stay completely still, and not make any noise, for 1 whole minute. If one student moved or made a noise, the clock would restart. Sounds simple, right? Not so much. All of the 7th grade students practiced this challenge for about 2 weeks, until the students started to ask if we could aim for a longer time! As the minutes of the challenge increased, so did the difficulty. At this point, I offered the students some tricks, hints, and tools to make the time go by quickly! These tricks and hints happen to be basic breathwork techniques that not only allow the time to pass by quickly, but are also tools to help calm the nervous system and shift our bodies out of a stress state. It’s pure science! A great example of this is when you double your exhale. If you inhale for 3 seconds and exhale for 6 seconds, and maintain this pattern of breathing for several minutes, you physiologically shift your nervous system out of the fight or flight/stress state. Your breath sends signals to both the heart and the brain and can have a profound impact on both. Some of the other “tools” and breathwork techniques are below:
–Conscious breathing: Inhale for 3 seconds, exhale for 3 seconds. Repeat
–Doubling the exhale: Inhale for 3 seconds, exhale for 6 seconds
–Box breathing: inhale for 3, hold at the top for 3, exhale for 3, hold at the bottom for 3. Repeat.
–Counting the breath backwards from 20. Repeat when you hit 0.
–Mantra (thst students get to choose what their words are but the example I use is inhale gratitude, exhale love).
The 1 Minute Challenge started with 1 minute, and has turning into AT LEAST 5 minutes of breathing and meditating at the beginning of every 7th grade science class. One way of meditation is the practice of focusing our attention and being aware of when if drifts away to other thoughts (as the mind often does), and then bringing it back to whatever we are focusing on (breathwork, counting, mantra). This practice of concentration translates into our everyday lives, helping us become aware when we lose focus and then the act of bringing it back to the task on hand. Can you imagine how handy this is in the classroom?
Benefits and how meditation can help give students tools to help navigate middle school and high school years:
–Increases blood flow to the brain, increasing brain function, creativity, critical thinking, practical intelligence, IQ, concentration, alertness, focus, and ultimately has the potential to increase grades.
–Decreases stress, anxiety, fear (and our reactions to stress, anxiety, and fear). It allows us to look at and respond rationally to stressful situations, rather than react out of fear.
–Helps regulates emotions and behavior
–Increases empathy and compassion
–Increases the gray matter of the brain in the hippocampus and frontal cortex areas. The grayer matter, the more positive emotions and longer lasting emotional stability, as well as heightened focus.
–Shifts our nervous systems out of fight or flight/stress state, into a much calmer and focused state
“The 1-minute challenge is a way for us to calm our thoughts down and to focus on what’s good in life”. – Maya Maman
“For me the challenge helps calm me down. Personally I like it when it’s unguided and it’s just me and my breath. Afterwards I feel less stressed about all my responsibilities and can have a few minutes to myself in quiet”. – Eliana Pons
“The challenge helps us relax and stay focused. When we come into the classroom, our energy is through the roof and after the challenge, we bring it down a bit and use that energy to learn and get things done”. – Lily Rubin
“During the one-minute challenge, I don’t have to worry about stress, and I can drift away to my happy place, which feels calming at the beginning of a 75-minute class. Thank you coach Trotta for valuing our focus and allowing us to have this amazing experience.” – Spencer Foss
The 1 Minute Challenge is so peaceful. I also really adore the breathing exercises, too. It just helps me think it’s okay to take a deep breath. The 1 Minute Challenge makes it feel okay to just sit still and I like when you tell me to focus on the breath. It helps you relax, live in the moment and just listen to the gulp of air. There’s this one quote that reminds me of the challenge, “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” The quote is by Lou Holtz.